2,000-year-old homework book


These two wax tablets, once bound together with string, are pages of a Greek homework book from around 2,000 years ago.

The teacher scratched two lines of a Greek maxim in the black wax at the top (Accept advice from someone wise / it is not right to believe every friends of yours), which the student copied out twice below. The pupil forgets the first letter and runs over the right margin in the first copy, so tries again but misses the same letter and still runs out of space in the last line.

On the opposite side, we see the teacher’s hand again. On the left there is a multiplication table drawn for the child from 1 x 1 to 3 x 10. On the right, there is a selection of two-syllable words starting with 'th-' written by the pupil to practice reading by recognising syllables.

Literacy, numeracy, and handwriting exercises appear together in this handy little booklet that – in addition to preserving a well-kept homework-book of an unknown child from almost two millennia ago – also foreshadows a great revolution in the history of writing when books like this would completely replace the ever-present scrolls.

Full title:
Wax diptycha or writing tablets, forming a schoolboy's exercise-book
2nd century, Egypt
Writing tablet
Ancient Greek
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 34186

Full catalogue details

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